Aberrations are extremely helpful in understanding the processes that lead to success or what is perceived as failure. We can gain significant knowledge from those outliers. So, what causes some to succeed greatly or fail miserably? Why do some parents get an ideal custody arrangement while others get hammered? I will not provide to you a definitive answer, a magic pill, of the prescription for your case. Rather, it is my intention here to supply an alternative lens by which to view your situation and the causes which underlie it.
Last month I was reviewing the school assessment of a local child who is clearly an outlier. Across seven domains he scored in a range of the 92nd through 99th percentiles; averaging 97th across those various domains which put him in the 99th percentile of students overall. I was also recently asked what can be done to improve student performance in America.
The juxtaposition of these relative events prompted my thoughts to commonality. This simple answer would be to match the environment of all children to that of this child. What is it about this boy, as well as my son, and others who I have encountered that possess similar attributes? In my experience these children had caretakers who provided a dual opportunity. First, is the introduction of mental stimulus. Second, is the opportunity for the child to formulate intelligence. Both of these are triggers to formulating intellectual neural pathways. Sounds, scents, sights, and touch are mental stimuli which we flood our children with from the moments of birth. These are essential to building the neural networks that facilitate mastery of these senses. Following the stimuli should be opportunities for the child to formulate intelligence. What I mean by the opportunity to formulate intelligence is simply allowing the child to think.
When I speak of this opportunity I am not limiting it to formalized instruction. Here is a simple way to assess whether a child is being allowed to think. Take a situation in which a child has committed a social offense; a toy may have been taken from another child or the child has struck another. A caretaker may demand that the offending child apologize to the other who is hurt and crying. Take a social encounter; a visit by grand-parents or a friend is ending and the visitor is leaving. In these scenarios a caretaker may instruct the child to tell the grand-parents they are loved or that it was fun to have the friend was visit.
These instructions are not only psychologically abusive, because they deny ownership to the child of his or her feelings, but relevant here is that they inhibit intelligence formulation. Prompting the child to construct and articulate his or her own feelings requires a massive coordinated effort within the brain. Observations of social cues, use of empathy, analysis of reactions, review of the occasion, comparison to similar interactions, and assessment of post utterance reactions to the child’s constructed feelings exercises or formulates neurological networks essential to intellect. In essence, the child is being taught to think for himself.
Thinking for oneself may seem to be a laudable goal. Thinking of it as a goal may upon first blush appear to be a wasted effort. I contend however that thinking for oneself is actually a rarity in modern society. Industrialized humans essentially operate on autopilot awaiting the next instruction. I have two incidents which I will use as examples to illustrate this concept.
In the 1950s the United States Government began exploding nuclear weapons in the atmosphere over the United States. The government claimed that “. . . these explosives create no immediate or long-range hazard to human health . . .”. President Eisenhower stated that the nuclear fallout from these explosions “. . . does not imperil the health of humanity.” Additionally, the federal government claimed that at least half of the radioactive fallout would not reach the earth for seven years. In actuality the majority of isotope iodine 131 and strontium-90 released into the atmosphere fell back to earth in under one year and the levels in 1958, while more radioactive fallout was being released by the government, was already nearly seven times higher in soil samples than what the government claimed would be the lifetime maximum. Radioactive fallout was spread throughout the domestic food supply and children were being treated for cancer in the 1960s as a result. So why did government employees continue to release radioactive material into their atmosphere and why did civilians not launch greater protest against the lies?
Prior to the 1950s release of radioactive dust into the atmosphere over the United States by the U S Government that same government had done the same over the country of Japan. The results of those releases had already been demonstrated to imperil the health of humanity in that area with significant increases in cancer and genetic damage leading to a vast proliferation of birth defects. Yet, Americans in large part blindly believed the lies of President Eisenhower and did not insist upon the end to the government’s obvious contamination of their environment.
On 11 September 2001 two commercial airliners were each crashed into one of the two main World Trade Center buildings which resulted in the proximate deaths of around 200 people. Occupants of these buildings, which had sustained obvious structural degradation, were instructed to remain within the buildings. After a prolonged period of time the structural integrity of the buildings was compromised enough to the point of collapse. It was these collapses, the secondary cause, which led to the deaths of 2000 more people who did as instructed by officials. This not only demonstrates the ubiquity of analytical awareness deficiencies in our culture but the potential costs of not thinking and acting for oneself. Again, lives were taken.
In both situations it was not the primary factor that lead to the vast majority of deaths. Rather, it was the secondary factors -- the decisions made in reaction to the primary factor. I have previously written about how the talking heads on news programs misattribute the cause of car wrecks on snowy or icy roads to the weather although neither snow or ice has caused any wrecks. Those are only primary factors. It takes a secondary action to cause a car wreck - incompetent drivers.
http://bcchildadvocates.blogspot.com/2015/02/false-attributions-groupthink-and-other.html When one starts thinking of results being the result of decisions -- secondary factors -- then the sense of responsibility for and control over one’s outcome increases. In 13 years of counseling parents through child custody battles I have observed commonalities among parents. Those whose situation improves and those who remain mired in litigation and conflict exhibit common traits. But, not common among both types.
Essential to successful outcomes is a perspective that breeds success. Some people perceive ‘cause’ and ‘reason’ as synonymous although they are substantially dissimilar. Cause is objective while reason, or excuse as the case may be, is purely subjective.
Parents who continue to insist that their child custody outcome is the result of outside agency tend to perceive that they have poorer outcomes. Contrarily, those who internalize the concept that they have agency over their outcomes perceive that they have better outcomes. Objectively, I have observed that their perceptions are correct.
Thus, those who tend to say that snow and ice - outside agency - hold sway over whether they will be in a collision tend to encounter adverse outcomes. Those who internalize agency and insist that it is their actions while driving on snow or ice which will determine whether they will be in a collision tend to encounter better outcomes.
Applying this to the child custody arena simply requires using the WTC collapses analogically. The institaging action resulted in few of the deaths. The ultimate outcome - the collapse of the buildings - was outside the control of all who died. However, it was the action, or more aptly the inaction, of those who remained in the structurally compromised buildings which led to their demise. Similarly, while the filing of a custody action may have brought a judge into a dispute to make the final decision it is the result of an analysis. That interim analysis is based upon the input by not only the parties but the ancillary players such as mental health professionals, GALs or CASAs, and other professionals who are making an analysis. All are working with the raw data emitted by the parties.
So you as a parent have agency over the material that is analized. Primarily that material is your behaviours, attitude, and actions. While you do not control whether custody is primarily in your favour or the building collapses you do control the flow of the information coming from you to be analyzed or whether you flee the building.
If you think that no one would tell you to stay in a burning building then think that no one is going to decide your child custody case for you. When you do that and act upon it you will likely find that you have an improved relationship with your child and the other parent.
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